What It Means to Be InclusivePosted in : HR Updates on 5 February 2020
The word inclusive goes hand-in-hand with diversity which in turn makes us think of celebrating differences within and outside the workplace. On the other hand, equality is about compliance and safeguarding those with a protected characteristic, arguably creating a ‘them and us’ culture.
Diversity goes beyond mere compliance and recognises the benefits of creating a space that encourages input from a range of individuals of different cultures, age, sexual orientation or backgrounds. But with the best of intentions, surely by categorising according to gender, disability etcetera we are putting people into boxes and creating perceptions of preferential treatment for some and not others.
With this in mind, inclusion needs to go beyond the potential constraints of equality and diversity and be about actively encouraging environments that value all employees where they are treated equally, where they are valued, respected and given an equal sense of belonging.
Organisations are bursting with people with different personality traits from the so-called ‘fiery reds’ to the analytical and measured ‘cool blues’ as well as the introverts, extroverts and the somewhere in-betweens. Everyone plays an equal value in the success of the organisation and if they were all full of the same types of people, then this would quickly stifle progress.
A good friend recently told me of how one of her work colleagues arrived into work one day only to find that the rest of her team had moved to a new pod at the other side of the building. When she plucked up the courage to challenge her boss about this, he merely brushed her concerns aside and told her that he didn’t think she’d want to move! She didn’t have a protected characteristic, so didn’t fall under the diversity or equality banner but rather, was an exceptionally intelligent, highly skilled, extremely shy individual. She left that organisation soon after.
To me this demonstrates the importance of giving everyone a voice and of getting to know everyone on an individual basis. Assumptions should never be made. It is the role of line managers to understand what makes their teams tick; what their individual interests are and the names of their children or pets. This creates that sense of belonging and respect. Managers should strive to involve their people in decision-making to create cohesion and feelings of worth. Leadership it is not just about simply telling people what to do and then leaving them to it. Inclusivity needs to be driven from the top and filtered down throughout the organisation. By including everyone and simply asking ‘what do you think’ is one of the first steps in fostering an inclusive environment.
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